18 June, 2006

Frustration: Japan 0 Croatia 0

Croatia played well, by all accounts, against Brazil, and will be looking for two wins against their remaining, less fancied opponents.

It is a bright day in Nuremberg and the game starts brightly too. Both sides play positive attacking football. For the first 20 minutes Japan have the better of it, but then Miyamoto brings down Prso in the box and Croatia are awarded a penalty, Miyamoto a yellow card and suspension. Darijo Srna takes the kick but it is saved magnificently by Yoshikatsu Kawaguchi.

The flowing play continues. Nico Kranjcar unleashes a long one and hits the Japanese crossbar. At the other end the Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa is pressed into action, having to collect a long-range punt himself. It is another end-to-end game of football.

After 35 minutes Nakata comes closest yet for Japan, making Pletikosa stretch to prevent his strike flying into the top corner. Kawaguchi makes another good save from Ivan Klasnic. As half-time approaches Croatia have the better of the play, but the difference is marginal.

At the beginning of the second half Atsushi Yanagisawa spurns a chance in front of goal, though there is a suspicion of offside anyway. Kranjcar puts his shot wide under pressure from the defender, and it looks like we will continue to have a close and thrilling match.

The fruitless attacks continue at both ends. Marko Babic wastes a chance for Croatia when his run from deep ends with a lame strike that rolls wide of the goal. Japan have fewer clear-cut chances but pressure the opposition well.

The teams are frustrated and the action starts to wane. The players look tired. Both sides bring on a substitute for the last few minutes, and this freshens things up a little. At the very end the play picks up as the players make a final push, but a goal is asking too much.

The draw is fair, though neither team will be happy with a point having lost their opening games, and the 0-0 result doesn't tell the story of the match.

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